Yerba Buena Center

Tom Sachs

Space Program: Europa

16 Sep 2016 - 15 Jan 2017

Landing Excursion Module (LEM) © Tom Sachs
Space Program: Europa
16 September 2016 - 15 January 2017

Tom Sachs takes us to Jupiter’s moon with Space Program: Europa at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

The expansive sculpture exhibition will transform YBCA’s galleries and public spaces into a launch pad for Sachs’s third space mission

World-renowned sculptor Tom Sachs and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) have set their sights on the next frontier of space exploration with Space Program: Europa. This maiden voyage to the untouched, icy moon of Jupiter will be Sachs’s longest space mission to date, following successful journeys to the moon (Space Program, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 2007) and Mars (Space Program: Mars, Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2012).

Open from September 16, 2016 through January 15, 2017, the sculpture-driven exhibition showcases the handmade artistry and industrial rigor that have become Sachs’s trademarks. With Space Program: Europa, Sachs and his team create an experiential environment featuring his signature bricolage style—the practice of creating things from a variety of available materials and objects. Space Program: Europa will fill YBCA with everything Sachs’s astronauts need to successfully complete their voyage, including mission control, a full size Apollo-era landing module (LEM), a mobile quarantine facility, and equipment for conducting scientific experiments and tea ceremonies. To boldly signal the forthcoming mission, a gigantic thirty-two-foot NASA “meatball” logo relief sculpture of painted plywood has been commissioned and installed on YBCA’s rooftop. It is visible from strategic aerial locations throughout the South of Market neighborhood.

With Space Program: Europa, Sachs asks questions related to mortality, consumerism, and the limits of American exceptionalism. “This spectacularly ambitious project comes to YBCA at a key moment of our own significant organizational evolution and to San Francisco at a time of epic—and often heated—transformation,” says YBCA Chief Executive Officer Deborah M. Cullinan. “We are interested in artists who fully inhabit the contradiction of what it means to live in this country today. Combining humor and criticality, Sachs’s objects remark poignantly on the absurdities and excesses of American life and the Bay Area context specifically, tied as they are to technological progress and capitalism.”

On the opening and closing weekends of Space Program: Europa, Sachs’s astronauts will activate the space program’s systems with live demonstrations showcasing the procedures, rituals, and tasks of their mission. These ritual activations illustrate how the sculptures are sacred objects, and an integrated part of the artist’s brand of bricolage.

Sachs will also host a tea ceremony during the opening and closing weekends, featuring hand-sculpted bowls and ladles, scroll paintings, vases, a motorized tea whisk, a shot clock, and an electronic brazier created by the artist himself. The ceremony is Sachs’s take on the ancient Japanese tradition of chanoyu, the ritual of preparing and serving tea. Sachs treats the culture of the tea ceremony, and the scientific and space exploration communities, with a combination of reverence and ignorance that allows him to reinvent the rules to tell a broader story of ambition, transformation, and faith.

Supplementing the experience is the installation of Logam Cafe, a storefront inspired by the artist’s own studio in New York that will function as a café, bookshop, and OCD rehab center. The public is invited to drink artisanal coffee and sort randomized machine screws as a way of participating in the space program.

A Space Program (2016), a documentary film about Sachs’s mission to Mars, will screen daily.

With a keen sense of our relationship to the cosmos, the environment, and material history, Sachs has created a space program that explores assumptions about conquest, exploitation of natural resources, and cultural appropriation. As he notes, “We will explore, and we will conquer, and we will feast.”

Tom Sachs (b. 1966, New York) is a New York–based sculptor known for his work inspired by icons of modernism and design. Using modest studio materials, Sachs creates parallel universes incorporating semi-functional sculpture, sometimes deployed by the artist and his studio assistants for interactive projects, as in Nutsy’s (2001–3) and Space Program (2012). His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among many others. He has had solo exhibitions at the Noguchi Museum, Queens, New York (2016), the Brooklyn Museum (2016), the Contemporary Austin (2015), the Park Avenue Armory, New York (2012), Fondazione Prada, Milan (2006), and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2003), among others. His film A Space Program, released by Zeitgeist in 2016, offers viewers a glimpse into the artist’s studio practice, philosophy, and the narrative surrounding his 2012 project with Creative Time at the Park Avenue Armory.

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